Burman University recently announced the opening of their Small Business Centre, which aims to help small businesses in central Alberta grow and prosper.
The program, which initially started as a goal to create a business incubator in Lacombe, is working with two key goals. The first goal is to encourage high school and university graduates in central Alberta to stay in the region and open a small business of their own. The second initiative is to proving business services like financial management, strategy management, marketing and customized training to small businesses in order to help them grown.
Currently, the program has worked with three businesses since it open, but Louicius Michel, Chair/Professor in the Burman School of Business, said the Small Business Centre has the capacity to work with 10 to 15 businesses at a time.
“What we are hoping to do in the very short term is to get into the downtown core closer to businesses. We aren’t going to keep it necessarily on campus — we want to move it to a physical place in the downtown core and we are working with partners to make that happen,” Michel said.
Burman’s School of Business saw the need for this service after reviewing government statistics from 2013 that showed that 99.7 per cent of all businesses in Canada were small to medium sized — 53 per cent of which end up failing. Overall, small business in Canada contributes to 51 to 56 per cent of the country’s total GDP and 30 to 33 per cent of Alberta’s GDP.
“When you have small businesses dying, you have a decrease of wealth creation and that is not good for the province, the country and it is not good for our city. As the School of Business, we think we can help with that,” Michel said.
Michel and his team — which includes staff, students and business professionals — believe they can help small businesses stay in business and ultimately lead to lower unemployment rates in central Alberta.
“The more businesses you have, the more jobs you are creating because small and medium sized businesses are providing 90.3 per cent of private sector jobs,” he said.
Initially the Small Business Centre was intended to be a business incubator, which takes businesses into a physical small and graduates them into the community when they are ready. When funding fell through, Burman felt the Small Business Centre was the logical next step.
“We are working with the Small Business Centre as first step towards a business activation program,” he said
Overall, student response to the work of the Small Business Centre has been overwhelmingly positive, according to Michel.
“This is the first time ever we have a perfect score in student satisfaction based on what we have done with small businesses already. We look forward to doing more,” he said.
He added the program is a “benefit for business, a benefit for our students who get hands-on experience and it is a benefit for government.”